TIME Courts

Judge Orders Robert Durst Held Without Bond on Weapons Charges

Robert Durst
Gerald Herbert—AP Robert Durst is escorted into Orleans Parish Prison after his arraignment in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court in New Orleans, La. on March 17, 2015.

FBI agents caught up with Robert Durst the day before the finale of The Jinx

(NEW ORLEANS) — Millionaire murder suspect Robert Durst is a flight risk and a danger to others, a judge decided Monday after considering what FBI agents found in his hotel room: an elaborate disguise and other escape tools fit for a spy movie.

Durst was arrested at the J.W. Marriott hotel in New Orleans, where he had registered under the name Everette Ward and was lying low while HBO aired the final chapters of his life story.

FBI agents recovered his passport and birth certificate, an apparently fake Texas ID, stacks of $100 bills, bags of marijuana, a .38-caliber revolver, a map folded to show Louisiana and Cuba, and a flesh-toned latex mask with salt-and-pepper hair.

“This was not a mask for Halloween;” it was a disguise extending down to the chest, Assistant District Attorney Mark Burton said.

Durst stopped using his cellphone after HBO aired the next-to-last episode of the “The Jinx,” its six-part documentary about him, and bought but apparently never activated a new cellphone, Burton added.

Magistrate Harry Cantrell ordered Durst held without bond on weapons charges in Louisiana, and set a preliminary hearing for April 2, delaying his transfer to California to face murder charges.

The 71-year-old millionaire sat beside his lawyers with his hands shackled to his sides in padded cuffs. He has been in a prison’s mental health unit for nearly a week. Jail officials have called him a suicide risk.

In Vermont on Monday, authorities said they were investigating the link between Durst and a Middlebury College student who disappeared in 1971.

An estranged member of the wealthy New York real estate family that runs 1 World Trade Center, Durst is accused of killing Susan Berman in 2000 before she could speak with former New York prosecutor Jeanine Pirro’s investigators about the disappearance of Durst’s first wife, Kathleen, in 1982.

FBI agents caught up with Durst the day before HBO’s finale, after Los Angeles police said he had used a hotel phone to check his email. FBI agents found him in the lobby, asked for his ID, and escorted him to his room, where he told them he had his passport, testified Jim O’Herne, an Orleans Parish district attorney investigator.

An FBI agent listed everything Durst had in the room to protect both the agency and Durst, who was arrested on the murder warrant later that evening, O’Herne said.

O’Herne said he was able to wake up a judge about 1:30 or 2:30 a.m. the next morning to sign a search warrant for Los Angeles police.

Defense attorney Dick DeGuerin said the timing of the agent’s inventory proves the search was illegal. “That’s an improper search,” he told the judge.

Burton said the legality of the arrest was outside the scope of Monday’s hearing.

Outside court, DeGuerin said he never expected the magistrate to set bond.

“We were able to get a lot of information we didn’t have before,” DeGuerin said. “I think all in all we had a very good day.”

Durst waived extradition from New Orleans but is being held while prosecutors decide whether to ask a grand jury to bring formal weapons charges.

None of Durst’s previous convictions was serious enough to merit the felon-in-possession charge, his attorneys said in court papers.

The show also described Durst’s role in the death of a 71-year-old neighbor in Texas whose dismembered body was found floating in Galveston Bay in 2001. Durst claimed self-defense and was acquitted of murder.

Investigators in Vermont have been aware for several years of a connection between 18-year-old Middlebury College student Lynne Schulze and Durst, who operated the All Good Things health food store in the town, the Middlebury Police Department said in a statement Monday.

Schulze disappeared in 1971. Her case was reopened in 1992 and has continuously generated leads, police said. They did not release any additional details, citing the ongoing investigation.

During Monday’s hearing in New Orleans, DeGuerin asked Pirro, now a Fox News Channel host, be removed from the courtroom as a potential witness. He said he wanted to question her about the truth or falsity of public statements she has made.

“She’s here because she’s been participating in the dogging of Mr. Durst for years,” he said.

But Cantrell ruled that Pirro would not testify in his court that day.

Pirro then returned to the courtroom with a satisfied smile, and said later that any requests for comment would have to go through her employer.

TIME States

Governor Signs Law Making Utah Only State Able to Use a Firing Squad

As a backup

(SALT LAKE CITY) — Utah became the only state to allow firing squads for executions Monday when Gov. Gary Herbert signed a law approving the controversial method’s use when no lethal-injection drugs are available.

Herbert has said he finds the firing squad “a little bit gruesome,” but Utah is a capital punishment state and needs a backup execution method in case a shortage of the drugs persists.

“We regret anyone ever commits the heinous crime of aggravated murder to merit the death penalty, and we prefer to use our primary method of lethal injection when such a sentence is issued,” Herbert spokesman Marty Carpenter said. “However, when a jury makes the decision and a judge signs a death warrant, enforcing that lawful decision is the obligation of the executive branch.”

The measure’s approval is the latest illustration of some states’ frustration over bungled executions and difficulty obtaining the drugs. Utah is one of several states seeking new forms of capital punishment after a botched Oklahoma lethal injection last year.

States have struggled to keep up their drug inventories as European manufacturers opposed to capital punishment refuse to sell the components of lethal injections to U.S. prisons. The Texas deadline is the most imminent, but other states are struggling, too.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Paul Ray of Clearfield, argued that a team of trained marksmen is faster and more decent than the drawn-out deaths involved when lethal injections go awry — or even if they go as planned.

Though Utah’s next execution is probably a few years away, Ray said wants to settle on a backup method now so authorities are not racing to find a solution if the drug shortage drags on.

Opponents of the measure say firing squads are barbaric, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah saying the bill makes the state “look backward and backwoods.”

Utah lawmakers stopped offering inmates the choice of firing squad in 2004, saying the method attracted intense media interest and took attention away from victims.

Utah is the only state in the past 40 years to carry out such a death sentence, with three executions by firing squad since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

The last was in 2010, when Ronnie Lee Gardner was put to death by five police officers with .30-caliber Winchester rifles in an event that generated international interest and elicited condemnation from many.

Gardner killed a bartender and later shot a lawyer to death and wounded a bailiff during a 1985 courthouse escape attempt.

The bailiff’s widow, VelDean Kirk, said she supports Utah’s efforts to bring back the firing squad.

Gardner’s brother recently has spoken out against it. Randy Gardner said he doesn’t condone his brother’s actions but believes the firing squad is barbaric.

TIME

Justices Turn Away Challenge to Wisconsin Voter ID Law

(MADISON, Wis.) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned away a challenge to Wisconsin’s voter identification law, after having blocked the state from requiring photo IDs in November’s general election.

The justices’ action means the state is free to impose the voter ID requirement in future elections, but Republican Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said it won’t be enforced for an election two weeks from now.

The decision is further evidence that the court put the law on hold last year only because the election was close at hand and absentee ballots already had been mailed with no notification of the need to present photo IDs.

The court did not comment on its order.

Early in-person absentee voting began on Monday for an April 7 election, similar to last year when the law was blocked, and absentee ballots have already been mailed without notification that photo IDs would be required.

“Absentee ballots are already in the hands of voters, therefore, the law cannot be implemented for the April 7 election,” Schimel said in a statement. “The Voter ID law will be in place for future elections – this decision is final.”

His decision came less than two hours after the American Civil Liberties Union filed an emergency motion with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago asking that the law remain blocked through the upcoming election because there isn’t enough time to implement it before then.

Having it take effect now “would cause all kind of confusion,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights project. Ho did not immediately respond to a message seeking his reaction to Schimel’s decision.

A state Supreme Court justice will be elected in the spring election. Voters will also decide whether to amend the Wisconsin Constitution to change how the chief justice of the state Supreme Court is decided. There are also dozens of local races on the ballot.

Wisconsin was one of four states in which a dispute over voting rules reached the Supreme Court last fall. The other states were North Carolina, Ohio and Texas. Of the four states, only Wisconsin’s new rules were blocked.

Wisconsin’s photo ID law has been a political flashpoint since Republican legislators passed it in 2011 and Gov. Scott Walker signed it into law. The GOP argues the mandate is a common sense step toward reducing election fraud. Democrats maintain that in-person voter fraud is extremely rare and that the law is really meant to disenfranchise voters who tend to vote Democrat and who may be more likely to lack proper ID, such as the poor, minorities and the elderly.

Republicans who support the law hailed the court’s decision as a victory for voters, while the League of Women Voters said it was disappointed that the challenge would not be heard.

“The last thing we need is laws that erect barriers for people who have been good voters for decades,” said Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.

The law was in effect for the February 2012 primary but subsequent legal challenges put it on hold and it hasn’t been in place for any election since.

The ACLU and allied groups persuaded a federal judge in Milwaukee to declare the law unconstitutional last year. But the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago later ruled that the law did not violate the Constitution.

The Supreme Court refused to disturb that ruling on Monday.

TIME

Israel’s Netanyahu Apologizes to Country’s Arab Minority

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington on March 2, 2015.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington on March 2, 2015.

(JERUSALEM) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has apologized to Israel’s Arab citizens for remarks he made during last week’s parliament election and which offended members of the community.

Netanyahu, whose Likud Party won re-election in the vote, met with members of the Arab community at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem on Monday and apologized.

He says he knows his “comments last week offended some Israeli citizens and offended members of the Israeli-Arab community.”

Netanyahu says: “This was never my intent. I apologize for this.”

Netanyahu drew accusations of racism in Israel, especially from its Arab minority, and a White House rebuke when, just a few hours before polling stations were to close across the country, he warned that Arab citizens were voting “in droves.”

TIME Football

Ex-NFL Star Darren Sharper Sentenced to 9 Years in Sex-Assault Case

Darren Sharper
Mario Anzuoni—AP Former NFL All-Pro safety Darren Sharper looks toward his attorney, Blair Berk, during an appearance in the Los Angeles Superior Court on Feb. 20, 2014.

The former safety is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting women in four states

(LOS ANGELES) — Former NFL star Darren Sharper removed all doubt Monday that he drugged and raped women, taking the first of several steps to own up to sex assaults in four states that will send him to federal prison for about nine years.

In two separate court cases, Sharper pleaded guilty to sexual assault in Arizona and no contest in California to raping two women he knocked out with a potent sedative mixed with booze.

Sharper, 39, wearing a striped, light blue suit, said it was in his best interest to enter the pleas.

The pleas came as Los Angeles prosecutors were prepared to present evidence of Sharper’s fall from grace as a former all-pro safety who won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints. His clean-cut reputation took a hit when women began telling police in several cities similar stories of blacking out while drinking with him and waking up groggy to find they had been sexually abused.

Defense lawyers had previously said the sexual intercourse was consensual. One lawyer had said Sharperdidn’t mix the sleepy shots of alcohol.

But Sharper wielded no defense in court Monday.

By not contesting the California charges, he admitted he raped two women he drugged after meeting them at Bootsy Bellows, a West Hollywood bar. The pleas have the same effect as a conviction.

Both encounters were eerily similar.

In October 2013, Sharper invited a woman and her friend to go to a party but stopped on the way to get something at his Century City hotel and invited them upstairs.

He insisted they drink a shot and they blacked out. One woman awoke with Sharper on top of her having sex.

The women were not in court, but prosecutors said they had agreed to the plea.

Under the unusual deal negotiated by Sharper’s lawyers and state and federal prosecutors, Sharper will serve sentences concurrently in federal prison, though the full term has not yet been announced.

He was sentenced to nine years in the Arizona case and will face 20 years in the California case when sentenced July 15. However, because the crimes in California only require serving half the term and he gets credit for 13 months spent in jail, he’ll serve about nine more years, lawyers said.

The sentence is no slap on the wrist, but it spares Sharper a potentially longer term if sentences involving at least nine alleged victims were added together and he also avoids notoriously rough state prisons, said Jeffery Rubenstein, a former Los Angeles prosecutor.

“This could have gotten really ugly and very likely this guy would have never seen the light of day,” said Rubenstein, who didn’t work on the case.

From the prosecution standpoint, victims were saved from reliving the event through testimony and having their credibility questioned by a seasoned team of defense lawyers, Rubenstein said.

Hearings will follow in Las Vegas on Tuesday and in New Orleans in the next month. In each state, he’s accused of drugging and sexually assaulting women when they were unconscious or otherwise unable to resist or consent.

Sharper’s worked as an NFL network analyst after retiring in 2011 from his 14-year NFL career. His arrest reverberated as the league dealt with off-field problems with players accused of crimes ranging from spousal abuse to murder. He was working

Sharper appeared in a Phoenix courtroom by video-conferencing from LA and admitted he sexually assaulted one woman and tried to attack another in suburban Phoenix in 2013.

Prosecutor Yigael Cohen said one victim didn’t have the ability to resist and suffered emotional harm.

A search of the Tempe apartment turned up a shot glass with a residue of the sedative zolpidem, sold under the brand name Ambien.

In the California case, he pleaded no contest to four counts of furnishing zolpidem, a controlled substance.

Sharper was told he couldn’t later change his mind and withdraw the California plea and that it would stand even if deals in other states collapse.

“To use the vernacular, do you understand that this is a final answer?” Judge Michael Pastor said.

“Yes, sir,” Sharper replied.

___

Billeaud reported from Phoenix.

TIME Israel

7 Children Killed in House Fire Brought to Israel for Burial

Fatal Brooklyn Fire
Julio Cortez—AP Mourners attend funeral services for the seven siblings killed in a house fire in Brooklyn on March 22, 2015

The family had moved about a year and a half ago from East Jerusalem

(NEW YORK) — The bodies of seven siblings who died in a house fire are headed to Israel for burial, a day after their sobbing father told mourners in his ultra-Orthodox Jewish community how much joy they had brought him.

“They were so pure,” Gabriel Sassoon said Sunday of his children during a eulogy. “My wife, she came out fighting.”

Flames engulfed the family’s two-story, brick-and-wood home in Brooklyn’s Midwood neighborhood early Saturday, likely after a hot plate left on a kitchen counter set off the fire that trapped the children and badly injured their mother and another sibling, investigators said.

The tragedy had some neighborhood Jews reconsidering the practice of keeping hot plates on for the Sabbath, a common modern method of obeying tradition prohibiting use of fire on the holy day.

The service at the Shomrei Hadas funeral home began with prayers in Hebrew, accompanied by the wailing voices of mourners. They could be heard through speakers that broadcast the rite to thousands of people gathered outside on the streets in traditional black robes and flat-brimmed hats.

After the funeral, mourners hugged the sides of SUVs with flashing lights that took the bodies of the children, ages 5 to 16 — accompanied by their father — to John F. Kennedy International Airport for the flight to Israel.

Sassoon’s surviving wife and a daughter — Gayle Sassoon and 14-year-old Siporah Sassoon — remained in critical condition on respirators.

“My children were unbelievable. They were the best,” Sassoon said at their funerals, calling them “angels.”

Authorities identified the victims as girls Eliane, 16; Rivkah, 11; and Sara, 6; and boys David, 12; Yeshua, 10; Moshe, 8; and Yaakob, 5.

“Eliane was a spirited child. Rivkah, she had so much joy,” their father said.

Rivkah “gave joy to everybody,” he said. “And David, he was so fun.”

Yeshua was “always trying to make others happy,” as was Yaakob, Sassoon said.

At the time of the fire, Sassoon — a religious education instructor — was in Manhattan at a Shabbaton, an educational retreat.

The hot plate was left on for the Sabbath, which lasts from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Many religious Jews use one to keep food warm, obeying the traditional prohibition on use of fire on the holy day as well as work in all forms, including turning on appliances.

The Sassoons’ hot plate apparently malfunctioned, setting off flames that tore up the stairs, trapping the children in their second-floor bedrooms as they slept, investigators said.

A neighbor, Karen Rosenblatt, said she called 911 after seeing flames and smoke billowing from the home. Her husband said he heard “what seemed like a young girl scream, ‘Help me! Help me!'” she said.

Firefighters arrived in less than four minutes and discovered the badly burned and distraught mother pleading for help, officials said. When they broke in the door, they encountered a raging fire that had spread through the kitchen, dining room, common hall, stairway leading upstairs and the rear bedrooms.

“I couldn’t help crying my heart out as I saw the house,” said Dalia Hen, 51, a Midwood neighbor. “It’s like our own children.”

State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents Midwood, said he’s hearing from more and more people concerned about use of the hot plates on Sabbath. He said he called his daughter, who has six children and uses a hot plate, and told her, “You’ve got to stop using that.”

“This is an important wakeup call for people, because it may save your life or the life of your children,” he said.

Shifra Schorr, 44, a mother of five a few blocks from the Sassoon house, said she and her friends don’t use hot plates, but “we’re all talking about it.”

Earlier at the family’s fire-gutted home on Bedford Avenue, a police officer stood guard as contractors boarded up windows with plywood.

Across the street from the Sassoon home, 89-year-old Izzy Abade said he’d watched Gayle Sassoon grow up, then her children.

“They used to play right across the street, riding bikes, playing in the backyard, playing ball.”

The family had moved about a year and a half ago from East Jerusalem, a contested part of the city where both Arabs and Jews live.

“There’s only one way to survive this,” Gabriel Sassoon said of his children’s deaths. “There is only total and complete, utter surrender.”

TIME 2016 Election

Ted Cruz Becomes First Major Candidate to Jump Into 2016 Race

In this March 10, 2015, photo, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, appears in Washington
Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP Senator Ted Cruz appears in Washington on March 10, 2015

"I am running for President and I hope to earn your support," Cruz announced on Twitter

(WASHINGTON) — Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz has become the first major candidate for president, kicking off what’s expected to be a rush over the next few weeks of more than a dozen White House hopefuls into the 2016 campaign.

“I am running for president and I hope to earn your support,” the tea party favorite said in a Twitter message posted just after midnight on Monday.

Cruz will formally launch his bid during a morning speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, choosing to begin his campaign at the Christian college founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell rather than his home state of Texas or the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s a fitting setting for Cruz, a 44-year-old tea party darling whose entry into the 2016 campaign drew cheers Sunday among fellow conservatives.

Amy Kremer, the former head of the Tea Party Express, said that the Republican pool of candidates “will take a quantum leap forward” with Cruz’s announcement, adding that it “will excite the base in a way we haven’t seen in years.”

Elected for the first time just three years ago, when he defeated an establishment figure in Texas politics with decades of experience in office, Cruz has hinted openly for more than a year that he wants to move down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Senate and into the White House.

In an online video promoted on his Twitter account, Cruz offered a preview of his campaign’s message.

“It’s a time for truth, a time to rise to the challenge, just as Americans have always done. I believe in America and her people, and I believe we can stand up and restore our promise,” Cruz said as images of farm fields, city skylines and American landmarks and symbols played in the background. “It’s going to take a new generation of courageous conservatives to help make America great again, and I’m ready to stand with you to lead the fight.”

While Cruz is the first Republican to declare his candidacy, he is all but certain to be followed by several big names in the GOP, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and two Senate colleagues, Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Florida’s Marco Rubio.

The Houston Chronicle first reported details about Cruz’s campaign launch. His move puts him into pole position among those whose strategy to win the nomination counts on courting the party’s most conservative voters, who hold an outsized influence in the Republican nominating process.

“Cruz is going to make it tough for all of the candidates who are fighting to emerge as the champion of the anti-establishment wing of the party,” said GOP strategist Kevin Madden. “That is starting to look like quite a scrum where lots of candidates will be throwing some sharp elbows.”

Following his election to the Senate in 2012, the former Texas solicitor general quickly established himself as an uncompromising conservative willing to take on Democrats and Republicans alike. He won praise from tea party activists in 2013 for leading the GOP’s push to partially shut the federal government during an unsuccessful bid to block money for President Barack Obama’s health care law.

In December, Cruz defied party leaders to force a vote on opposing Obama’s executive actions on immigration. The strategy failed, and led several of his Republican colleagues to call Cruz out. “You should have an end goal in sight if you’re going to do these types of things and I don’t see an end goal other than irritating a lot of people,” said Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch.

Such admonitions mean little to Cruz, who wins over crowds of like-minded conservative voters with his broadsides against Obama, Congress and the federal government. One of the nation’s top college debaters while a student at Princeton University, Cruz continues to be a leading voice for the health law’s repeal, and promises to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and scrap the Department of Education if elected president.

Last weekend in New Hampshire, one voter gave Cruz a blank check and told him to write it for whatever amount he needed.

“He’s awfully good at making promises that he knows the GOP can’t keep and pushing for unachievable goals, but he seems very popular with right wing,” said veteran Republican strategist John Feehery. “Cruz is a lot smarter than the typical darling of the right, and that makes him more dangerous to guys like Scott Walker and Rand Paul.”

The son of an American mother and Cuban-born father, Cruz would be the nation’s first Hispanic president. While in New Hampshire this month, Cruz told voters his daughter, Caroline, had given him permission to join the presidential race in the hopes that the family puppy would get to play on the White House lawn instead of near their Houston high-rise condo.

“If you win, that means Snowflake will finally get a backyard to pee in,” Cruz said his daughter told him.

To get there, Cruz knows he needs to reach out beyond his base. He is set to release a book this summer that he said would reflect themes of his White House campaign, and said in a recent Associated Press interview he will use it to counter the “caricatures” of the right as “stupid,” ”evil” or “crazy.”

“The image created in the mainstream media does not comply with the facts,” he said.

TIME White House

Obama Takes Netanyahu ‘At His Word’ on Palestinian State

US-POLITICS-OBAMA
Brendan Smialowski—AFP/Getty Images President Barack Obama speaks at the City Club of Cleveland March 18, 2015 in Cleveland.

Yet another sign of the strained relations between the two leaders

(WASHINGTON) — President Barack Obama said he takes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “at his word” for saying that an independent Palestinian state will never co-exist with Israel as long as he is in office, yet another sign of the strained relations between longtime allies.

Netanyahu has backpedaled since he stunned the U.S. and the international community by announcing that dramatic policy reversal on the eve of his re-election Tuesday. But in his first public comments on the election outcome, Obama suggested that he does not believe the Israeli leader’s softer position on the Palestinian state issue.

“We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership, and so that’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region,” Obama told The Huffington Post in an interview released Saturday.

Obama, who placed a congratulatory telephone call to Netanyahu on Thursday, said he indicated to the prime minister that the U.S. remains committed to a two-state solution as the only way to keep Israel secure.

“And I indicated to him that given his statements prior to the election, it is going to be hard to find a path where people are seriously believing that negotiations are possible,” Obama said.

Tensions between the Obama administration and Netanyahu escalated as the March 17 Israeli elections neared. The White House was particularly annoyed when Netanyahu accepted an invitation from Republican House Speaker John Boehner to address lawmakers earlier this month. Boehner had not consulted the administration before extending the invitation, which an infuriated White House said was a break from standard practice. Netanyahu sharply criticized a deal being negotiated among the U.S., Iran and other world powers over Iran’s nuclear program.

Obama said U.S.-Israeli military and security cooperation would remain unchanged, regardless of disagreements on policy.

“But we are going to continue to insist that, from our point of view, the status quo is unsustainable,” he said. “And that while taking into complete account Israel’s security, we can’t just in perpetuity maintain the status quo, expand settlements. That’s not a recipe for stability in the region.”

Obama also criticized Netanyahu for saying as the election neared that Arab voters were heading to the polls “in droves.” Obama’s spokesman Josh Earnest previously denounced the rhetoric as a “cynical Election Day tactic” and a “pretty transparent effort to marginalize Arab Israeli votes.”

“We indicated that that kind of rhetoric was contrary to what is the best of Israel’s traditions,” Obama said, adding that Israeli democracy is premised on everyone being treated equally and fairly. “If that is lost, then I think that not only does it give ammunition to folks who don’t believe in a Jewish state, but it also, I think, starts to erode the name of democracy in the country.”

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough is scheduled on Monday to address J Street, an Israeli advocacy group that opposes Netanyahu.

TIME College Basketball

N.C. State Stuns No. 1 Villanova to Advance to Sweet 16

NC State v Villanova
Jared Wickerham—Getty Images Desmond Lee #5 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack celebrates after making a shot and getting fouled with teammate Beejay Anya #21 during the second half against the Villanova Wildcats on March 21, 2015 in Pittsburgh.

N.C. State stuns Villanova 71-68 to advance to Sweet 16

(PITTSBURGH) — The rims seemed tight. So did Villanova.

The Wildcats missed so many shots — gimme layups, uncontested jumpers, airballed 3s — that it was no surprise the first thing to fall was their Final Four target.

No wonder it came to this: The ‘Cats were the first to go from a top seed to No. 1-and-done.

North Carolina State, a program that authored one of the early chapters on March shockers, can add another stunner to the list: The Wolfpack are back in the Sweet 16.

“We came out today with the feeling that everybody expected us to lose to a one seed,” said forward BeeJay Anya, “but we believe in ourselves and that we’re good enough to beat anybody in the country and we went down and did it.”

N.C. State attacked one of the top teams in the nation for 40 minutes, playing with a chest-thumping swagger that helped them stun Villanova 71-68 on Saturday night.

N.C. State guards Cat Barber and Desmond Lee shared a long embrace after the buzzer as their teammates danced around the court in celebration.

Barber turned to Lee, pounded his chest and yelled, “all heart!”

No, this wasn’t quite as meaningful as Jim Valvano’s mad dash looking for somebody — anybody — to hug after the Wolfpack won the 1983 national championship. But the Wolfpack (22-13) have designs on their own big March run and will move on to Syracuse, New York to play the winner of the Louisville-Northern Iowa game.

Lacey led them with 17 points, Barber had 13 and Malik-Adbul Abu had 13 points, 12 rebounds and absolutely destroyed the Wildcats inside.

The Wildcats (33-3) saw a 16-game winning streak end and have not reached the second weekend since 2009.

The Wildcats come up empty after storming their way to pair of Big East titles and a 41-point victory in the NCAA Tournament opener.

“I know we have to answer to the fact that we did not get to the second weekend again,” coach Jay Wright said. “We have to own that. But it’s not going to define us within our program. It’s going to define us outside of our program and we accept that.”

Dylan Ennis was nearly inconsolable, his arms crossed over his head in disbelief. Ennis missed a 3-pointer after an N.C. State turnover with 20 seconds left that would have put the Wildcats ahead.

Darrun Hilliard scored 27 points and gamely rallied the Wildcats in the final minutes. He hit 3-pointers that brought them to within four, within two with 41.1 seconds left and 69-68 with 1.2 seconds left.

Ralston Turner sealed the win with free throws and N.C. State was back in the Sweet 16 for only the third time since 1989 (2012, 2005). They hadn’t defeated a top seed since that memorable night in 1983 when they upset Houston.

Yet for the all the Wolfpack did right to keep the ‘Cats on their heels, they never went on that decisive run that would have ended a comeback threat. Barber lost the ball and N.C. State’s ninth turnover led to Josh Hart’s three-point play with 3:51 left.

The Wolfpack didn’t have to win with authority, though — they just had to win.

Desmond Lee’s three-point play stretched the lead back to seven and put them minutes away from the signature win under coach Mark Gottfried. Wins over Duke, North Carolina and Louisville in ACC play let them know they could knock off the elite.

“We respect Villanova, but we’ve seen good teams,” Gottfried said. “We’ve seen a lot of them in our conference. You see them about every night. So a league like that prepares you for games like tonight.”

Gottfried also has a knack for pulling off March upsets — he led eighth-seeded Alabama to a win over No. 1 Stanford in the second round of the 2004 tournament.

The Wildcats have one more March failure to tack on the list. They shot a season-high 63 percent in the tournament opener against Lafayette. Against the Wolfpack, they fired ‘em early in the shot clock, got stuffed at the rim and twice airballed 3-point attempts.

These were the top-seeded Big East champs?

In the first half, the Wildcats missed a whopping 20 of 28 field goals. Hart, the Big East tournament MVP, played just 4 minutes after he was whistled for two fast fouls.

“I don’t think missing those layups or those easy baskets really fazed us, it was just our decision making in taking them,” Hilliard said.

TIP-INS:

NC State: The Wolfpack did not attempt a free throw until there was 2:27 left in the first half. … N.C. State held a 45-32 edge on the boards. … The Wolfpack missed 8 of 11 3-pointers.

Villanova: The Wildcats shot 31 percent (19 of 61). … The Wildcats have not won more than one game in the NCAA Tournament since 2009.

BALANCING ACT:

The Wolfpack had four players reach double-digit scoring and two of them had double-doubles. JayVaughn Pinkston scored 13 and was the only other Wildcat to crack double digits. Four players averaged double digits in the regular season.

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TIME Yemen

Yemeni City of Aden Is President’s Refuge and Target of His Enemies

Anti-Houthi protesters carry an injured fellow protester during calshes with Houthi fighters in Yemen's southwestern city of Taiz
Anees Mahyoub—Reuters Anti-Houthi protesters carry an injured fellow protester during calshes with Houthi fighters in Yemen's southwestern city of Taiz on March 22, 2015.

Officials fear the rebel takeover of Taiz on Sunday is a prelude to an attack on Aden

(ADEN, Yemen) — This port city, perched on an extinct volcano protruding into the Arabian Sea on Yemen’s far southern edge, has become perhaps the last refuge of the country’s embattled president, and it feels like now all his enemies are bearing down on it.

Driven out of the capital, Sanaa, by Shiite rebels who have taken over much of the north, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the remains of his government have made Aden their provisional capital. If they lose here, Hadi — the man the U.S. had hoped would stabilize the chaotic nation and fight al-Qaida’s powerful branch — likely will fall, plunging Yemen into a civil war.

In his first speech since fleeing Sanaa, Hadi on Saturday denounced the rebel takeover as “a coup against constitutional legitimacy” and declared Aden the country’s “temporary capital.”

The city is visibly expecting assault, whether from the forces of Hadi’s rival, ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has allied himself with the Shite rebels, or from al-Qaida militants. Army and police forces loyal to Hadi and their allied militiamen patrol Aden’s streets and man checkpoints at key locations. Tanks guard roads leading to the city and children are largely staying home from school.

“There are great fears that plans are underway for Aden to meet the same fate as Sanaa,” Nayef al-Bakry, Aden’s deputy governor, told The Associated Press. Referring to Saleh and the Shiite rebels, “they want to extend their reach on both the ground and on the coast.”

Early this week, Hadi’s forces fended off an attempt by police commandos loyal to Saleh to capture the airport. But there are still two army units loyal to Saleh in the city. And on Sunday, the Shiite rebels, backed by forces loyal to Saleh, seized Yemen’s third largest city, Taiz, 140 kilometers (85 miles) to the northwest of Aden. Officials here fear it is a prelude to an attack on Aden.

The takeover of Taiz, known as the “gateway to the south,” followed the arrival there two days ago of a column of 20 armored fighting vehicles and 30 truckloads of Shiite rebel fighters and pro-Saleh troops.

Equally worrying, al-Qaida militants on Friday took a city on Aden’s doorstep, al-Houta, capital of neighboring Lahj province. Al-Qaida fighters now have positions only 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Aden. Hadi on Saturday accused Saleh’s forces, which had held al-Houta, of intentionally surrendering it to the militants to create even more chaos, and he sent a force led by his defense minister, Maj.-Gen. Mahmoud al-Subaihi, to retake the city.

The drama in the south is just one part of Yemen’s turmoil.

Around the country, al-Qaida militants have been battling the Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, and in some places Sunni tribesman have allied with the militants. A new alarming sign came Friday when suicide bombers hit two mosques in Sanaa controlled by the Houthis, killing more than 130 people in a devastating attack that may signal the emergence of a new branch of the Islamic State group, the extremists who are seeking to supplant al-Qaida region-wide as the flagship for Islamic militants.

Hadi fled Sanaa last month after escaping house arrest under the Houthis, who took over the capital in September. Aden is Yemen’s second most important city and the country’s economic hub, and as long as Hadi was here he could reasonably claim to still be president. Moreover, he chose Aden because as a southerner he has considerable support in the region.

Aden has been at the center of trade in the Indian Ocean for centuries. Its populace has long seen itself as more sophisticated and distinct from mountainous, tribal, inward-facing Sanaa.

Aden was the capital of an independent South Yemen for decades until unification in 1990. Today, secessionist sentiment remains strong — many pro-Hadi militiamen in the streets wave the red, white, black and blue flags of the former South Yemen.

Billboards welcoming Hadi to the city hang on many streets, along with pro-Hadi graffiti on the walls. Since he arrived, Hadi has issued calls for volunteers to join the army, a move his camp depicts as an attempt to build a military that stands above tribal, personal or regional loyalties. So far an estimated 20,000 men in Aden alone have volunteered.

“The protection of Aden is a task the president must prioritize,” Hadi adviser Sultan al-Atwany told the AP. “We need to build a new army, one that owes allegiance to the country and not anyone else.”

But the bulk of Aden’s security is in the hands of pro-Hadi militiamen grouped in what are officially known as the “Popular Committees,” a rag-tag army of southern tribesmen who took part in the military campaign against al-Qaida in nearby Abyan and Shabwa provinces in 2012.

Hadi came to office in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising against Saleh, the autocrat in power since 1978. An accord brokered in 2012 by U.S.-allied Gulf nations removed Saleh and installed Hadi, but Saleh remained in the country and his loyalists continued to hold powerful positions in the government, the military and the security forces. Saudi Arabia and the U.S. strongly backed Hadi, and the new president proved a stauncher ally to the U.S. than Saleh in the fight against al-Qaida’s branch in the country.

Ever since, Hadi has accused his ousted predecessor of undermining him. Saleh is widely thought to be seeking to avenge his ouster and to ensure that his son, career army officer Ahmed, is Yemen’s next president. Now Saleh has openly allied himself with the Houthis, using his influence in the military to facilitate their expansion. Like the Houthis, Saleh follows the Shiite Zaydi sect which exists almost exclusively in Yemen.

Hadi’s forces were able to fend off the airport assault by the pro-Saleh police commandos on Thursday and even subsequently took the commandos’ base. But the extended public gunbattle underlined the fragility of the city’s defenses.

During the fighting, a warplane flown by Saleh’s loyalists attacked Hadi’s residence. The three bombs missed the palace, and Hadi was not there at the time. But the raid signaled that his opponents are aiming to kill him — or at least show him they can.

Meanwhile, Aden also faces a looming threat from al-Qaida.

The group’s capture of nearby al-Houta is its first major seizure of territory since 2011, when it held parts of nearby Abyan and Shabwa provinces for more than a year until Hadi’s forces drove them out with U.S. backing.

Aden has since 2011 seen an uptick of suicide bombings, assassinations and attacks targeting intelligence and military officials — mostly blamed on al-Qaida. The security and military officials said Aden has in recent months seen a steady infiltration of al-Qaida fighters.

On Thursday, at least 300 inmates in Aden’s main jail — including several al-Qaida fighters and leaders — were freed by forces loyal to Saleh, said officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

The officials said al-Qaida in Yemen was weakened since its expulsion from Abyan and Shabwa but has been regrouping, in part energized by opposition to the Shiite Houthis.

Sunni tribesman in Yemen’s north have struck alliances, albeit temporary, with al-Qaida to keep the Houthis from advancing. Al-Qaida has also been rebuilding in the strategic and vast southern province of Hadramout, which borders Saudi Arabia.

“There are signs of security vacuums and there are al-Qaida bands operating in some areas,” Hadramout Governor Adel Bahameed told the AP in Aden. “We are doing everything we can to contain them.”

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